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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
the day could sensibly compete. Experts agree that Galois'
memoir was more than worthy of the prize. It was work of the
highest originality. As Galois said with perfect justice, *I have
carried out researches which will halt many savants in theirs.5
The manuscript reached the Secretary safely. The Secretary
took it home with him for examination, but died before he had
time to look at it. When his papers were searched after his death
no trace of the manuscript was found, and that was the last
Galois ever heard of it. He can scarcely be blamed for ascribing
his misfortunes to something less uncertain than blind chance.
After Cauehy's lapse a repetition of the same sort of thing
looked too providential to be a mere accident. 'Genius', he said,
is condemned by a malicious social organization to an eternal
denial of justice in favour of fawning mediocrity,' His hatred
grew, and he flung himself into politics on the side of republi-
canism, then a forbidden radicalism.
The first shots of the revolution of 1830 filled Galois with joy.
He tried to lead his fellow students into the fray, but they hung
back, and the temporizing director put them on their honour
not to quit the school. Galois refused to pledge his word, and
the director begged him to stay in till the following day. In his
speech the director displayed a singular lack of tact and a total
absence of common sense. Enraged, Galois tried to escape
during the night, but the wall was too high for him. Thereafter,
all through the glorious three days' while the heroic young
Polytechnicians were out in the streets making history, the
director prudently kept his charges under lock and key.
Whichever way the cat should jump the director was prepared
to jump with it. The revolt successfully accomplished, the
astute director very generously placed his pupils at the disposal
of the temporary government. This put the finishing touch to
Galois* political creed. During the vacation he shocked his
family and boyhood friends with his fierce championship of the
rights of the masses.
The last months of 1830 were as turbulent as is usual after a
thorough political stir-up. The dregs sank to the bottom, the
scm» rose to the top, and suspended between the two the
moderate element of the population hung in indecision. Galois,
408